Jeremy Guthrie made the commitment knowing full well the potential Major League Baseball playoff schedule ahead, but the Kansas City Royals starting pitcher likely didn’t envision the scenario that brought him Nov. 1 to Platte City’s Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
Guthrie gave a fireside — a supplementary evening meeting traditional in the Mormon religion — just three days removed from starting for Kansas City in Game 7 of the World Series.
Hours after the biggest appearance of his MLB career, Guthrie didn’t hesitate to speak at the church he attends whenever possible.
“With all that’s going on with their busy schedule and all that’s going on in their lives right now, we certainly appreciate them taking the time to be with us tonight,” church president Scott Holman said during his introduction of Guthrie and his wife Jenny before they spoke to a crowd of hundreds.
Prior to the main program, Guthrie met with select invitees to sign baseballs and take photos. He greeted each individual with a smile and even autographed 11-year-old Lincoln Russell’s picture of Guthrie celebrating with the Royals following their American League championship last month.
“It’s just a fantastic opportunity to meet such a great guy and such a great ballplayer,” said Eric Heerlein of St. Joseph. “It shows how standup of a guy he is.”
Guthrie talked for nearly an hour, relaying the importance of the Mormon faith on his life and career.
A 35-year-old originally from Oregon, Guthrie started his speech in the middle of his story — a change from his normal routine. He spoke of his dedication to serving a two-year mission and how a hiccup in acquiring a travel visa delayed his trip to Spain and briefly brought him to Independence, Mo.
“So this place had a little special place in my heart already before I came and became a Kansas City Royal because I served as a missionary here just down the road,” Guthrie said.
Dedicated to becoming and serving as a missionary, Guthrie twice turned down a large sum of money to immediately being his professional career, including a quick rejection of the San Diego Padres during a cell phone call that interrupted a high school class in the summer of 1997.
Guthrie eventually enrolled at BYU with a chance to play baseball but put that on hiatus to serve his mission in Spain. He didn’t take a ball or glove with him and didn’t throw during those two years, despite concerns it would hurt his chances at becoming a professional player upon return.
“That was a commitment I made to Him, not with the expectation that I would come back in pitch in a Game 7 of a World Series or even pitch in the Major Leagues at all,” Guthrie said. “That’s not what I was hoping for. What I was simply hoping that by doing what He asked me to do I would be blessed, and I was. I was tremendously blessed.”
While in Spain, Guthrie spoke of his daily work to engage in conversation with locals in an attempt to spread the Mormon faith. This often involved long days with a low success rate.
“If you measured my mission like things in my life are measured now — wins and losses — I would have had a lot of losses and not too many wins,” Guthrie said.
The experience helped teach Guthrie the importance of remaining true to himself and simply doing the best he could with his intended purpose in life — an approach he urged attendees to mimic in their faith.
Upon return from the mission, Guthrie transferred to Stanford and played two highly successful seasons for the Cardinal before the Cleveland Indians drafted him in 2003. His career also took him to the Baltimore Orioles and the Colorado Rockies before a trade in the summer of 2012 brought him to Kansas City.
After a successful audition, the Royals signed him to a three-year contract, and he moved his family, which includes three young children, to Parkville, Mo. to become a part of this community.
Through all of the success, Guthrie stayed true to his faith and continues to be as active as possible in the LDS. The Royals’ run to the World Series offered him another chance to continue his missionary work in a different way.
“To be in front of a microphone,” Guthrie said, “to be in front of a camera to share with others what has helped me get to this point in time, what makes me tick, what is it that has given me a chance to go through this career that has had its ups and downs.”
The program started with a musical number and a prayer before Jenny Guthrie gave some brief remarks. She emotionally recounted a portion of Disney’s The Lion King where Rafiki the monkey urged Simba, the movie’s hero, to remember his identity and potential. She reminded members of the audience that their faith teaches that everyone has a special purpose but urged them to, like her husband, stay true to their religion while pursuing their goals.
Jeremy Guthrie then took the podium and said the music and his wife’s words brought him to tears — the first he had shed since being charged with the loss in Kansas City’s 3-2 defeat to the Giants in Game 7 of the World Series just days earlier.